Passing on the Plate: Why Your Congregation May not be Tithing
- Monday, February 11, 2008
A website called Truth or Tradition.com contains an extensive article on tithing that claims we must first understand what parts of God’s Word are written to Jews, what parts are written to Gentiles, and what parts are written to Christians. According to Truth or Tradition, we are currently living in what the Bible calls the Administration of the Secret (Eph. 3:9), which began on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1ff) and will conclude with the rapture of the Church.
”The message of Scripture to Christians is that because of the finished work of Jesus Christ,” says Truth or Tradition, “we do not live under the Mosaic Law, during which tithing was instituted and commanded as part of the Law. Therefore, tithing as a commandment of God has no relevance to believers today.”
Countering the Arguments
At this point, you may be thinking it is time to dust off your sermon notes on tithing. Or, you may need a few key arguments at your fingertips when a church member objects to tithing. During a recent phone interview, Andrew Hill, professor of Old Testament Studies at Wheaton College, provided a primer on tithing, answering the most common objections.
Hill says he likes to put all of the Biblical texts about giving together as a whole to extract principles that would be helpful, as opposed to emphasizing one or two verses against other verses.
"It is true that there really is no carry-over stipulation in the New Testament to give a tithe,” says Hill. “Ten percent seems to be an assumption rather than a given imperative.” According to Hill, the only real verse we have is the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 23 where Jesus admonishes the religious people of His day for being so careful about tithing even their spices. They'd forgotten about the greater principles of justice, mercy and faith. Jesus, at that point, says the leaders should have done the former – kept the tithe – but added the other components to it.
“You have the injunction from Jesus at that point in time that the tithe is valid for the Hebrew people,” Hill points out, “but that was still pre-Pentecost.” Those who would argue for a New Testament without a tithe can say that although Jesus mentioned tithing, it was pre-Pentecost and so relegated to the Jews, “not necessarily to the church in later times.”
Hill says he personally thinks the 10 percent mandate from the Old Testament should be a minimum carry over from the old covenant to the new. “It’s a baseline, a suggested idea for proportional giving. The tithe in the Old Testament was designed to make a statement about God as the source of good things. By giving our tithe, we acknowledge God as source and tangibly demonstrate our thanksgiving and faith.”
Moving past the Gospels, Hill notes that Paul affirms generous giving in 2 Corinthians 8. “Generosity is the principle of giving,” says Hill. “Yes, a tenth was traditional, but in the new covenant, given the lavish gift of Jesus Christ that God has bestowed on the Church, our giving should be extremely generous – well beyond even a tenth.”
In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul states that people should give according to what they are able to give, but it should be done cheerfully and joyfully. “So the New Testament does provide some self-determination as to what to give,” says Hill. “But my thought would be that a tenth is the lowest common denominator from the tradition of the Old Testament. Christians would be encouraged in the new covenant era to exceed that – joyfully and generously.”
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